The top clerk in Rowan County made a name for herself this year. Kim Davis refused to let same-sex couples marry, then when that didn't work she wouldn't let anyone in her Kentucky county get married — gay or straight. Eventually, her "protest" got Davis thrown in jail for contempt, until her release, broadcast on live TV, when presidential candidate Mike Huckabee held her right arm toward the sky and a crowd of supporters roared while "Eye of the Tiger" blared on speakers. Finally, she switched parties from the Democrats to the Republicans.
That last move was perhaps the most symbolic of her entire debacle. By and large it's the Republicans who tried to stop nationwide marriage equality this year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June. And many of the names of those officials litter The Advocate's annual Phobie Awards this time around.
But Kim Davis is effectively a stand-in for everyone who those officials hope to count amongst backers and donors and voters. She is the everywoman in Kentucky who cites "God's authority" over the Supreme Court. And she believes, or at least she says she does, that her discrimination against same-sex couples is actually the reverse, that it's the government discriminating against Christians.
Never mind that the majority of the Supreme Court justices are Christians. Never mind that President Obama is a Christian, or that many bisexuals, gays and lesbians want to marry in their own churches, before Christian pastors who don't share Davis's views.
What Kim Davis has so effectively done this year is to strip down the entire argument against same-sex marriage to a disagreement over separation of church and state. It's always been a fight over whether a twisted version of Christianity is allowed to dictate the rights of a minority group that the religion says is immoral.
Until Kim Davis, the argument over "religious exemptions" was being told with bakers, florists and pizza shop owners as the main characters. This one county clerk managed to draw in the cameras (more effectively than a number of other county clerks doing the same thing) and transform the national conversation into one about elected officials shirking their jobs because of overt animus.